The Acquisition of Public Land By the Moore Family
By: Roger M. Moore (edited on February 9, 2018)
This document summarizes the acquisition of Federal public lands (homesteads) by Eliza Jane Moore (1855-1932), George Henry Moore (1858-1953) and John Wiley Moore (1860-1932). Eliza, George and John were the children of Nathan Washington Moore (1833-1863) and Julina Ann Johnson (1838-1932) and their children. These siblings traveled together from Missouri to California in a covered-wagon in about 1876.
The History of the Homestead Act
During the late 1700’s thru 1976, our government passed a multitude of laws that were enacted to accelerate the settlement of our county, especially the lands in the unsettled west. The law that was used by the Moore family to accumulate Federal land in the Woody area was the Homestead Act.
The Homestead Act was enacted May 20, 1862 and signed into law by Abraham Lincoln. This Act turned over vast amounts of the public lands to private citizens. Under the act, homesteaders claimed and settled over 270 million acres, or 10 percent of the area of the United States.
The Homestead Act allowed qualifying individuals the right to claim 160 acres of land, a quarter-section, for free. To qualify, the individual must: a) never taken up arms against the U.S. government; b) be the head of the household, or at least twenty-one years old; and c) had to be citizen of the United States, or had filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen.
A qualified applicant need only accomplish three basic steps to gain a title to a piece of land: 1) file an application at the nearest land office and pay a small filing fee; 2) live on the designated land, build a home, make improvements, and farm it for a minimum of five years. Alternatively, at his discretion, the applicant could buy the land for $1.25 an acre after six months from filing his application; and 3) apply to the Federal government for deed to the land.
Although approximately 274 million acres were claimed and 400,000 farms were established under the Homestead Act, the law never came close to meeting the expectations of its supporters. The lands of the West were too arid to support traditional farming techniques, and a farm of 160 acres was simply too small.
Because much of the prime low-lying alluvial land along rivers had already been homesteaded by the turn of the twentieth century, an amendment to the Homestead Act was passed by Congress in 1909; it was called the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. This Act targeted public land suitable for dry-land farming, doubling the allotted acreage of a homestead to 320 acres.
The last amendment to the Homestead Act was passed by Congress in 1916; it was called the Stock-Raising Homestead Act. This act targeted public land suitable for ranching purposes, again doubling the allotted acreage of a homestead to 640 acres. The 1916 Act directed a major change in land rights; it separated surface rights from subsurface rights (also known as mineral rights). The Federal government retained mineral rights on lands acquired by the Homestead Act.
For all intent and purpose, the Homestead Act was no longer used after the 1930’s. By 1976, federal government policy had shifted to retaining control of western public lands. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 ended homesteading in the lower 48 states. . The only exception to this new policy was in Alaska, for which the law allowed homesteading until 1986.
Homesteads of the Moore Family
Eliza Jane Moore did not homestead any land, but three of her children did: Dell Washington Johnson, Kitty Ethelena Johnson and Elsie Hannah Johnson.
George Henry Moore and his first wife Maria Sostanes "Flores" Moore did not homestead any land together. Their two children did homestead parcels of land: Nathan Washington Moore and his wife Maude Mable Golden, and Virginia Grace Moore and her husband Charles Woodson Seeley.
George Henry Moore and second wife Laura Zania Frazier homesteaded 640 acres in four separate parcels: 160 acres in 1907, 160 acres in 1920, another 200 acres in 1920, and 120 acres of land in 1938.
John Wiley Moore homesteaded 240 acres in three separate parcels: 160 acres in 1896, 40 acres in 1914, and 40 acres in 1921. John did not have children.
The Homesteads of the children of Eliza Jane Moore
Dell Johnson (1st son of Eliza Jane Moore) homesteaded 320 acres in two separate parcels: 160 acres in 1912, and 160 acres in 1923.
James Dennis “Tean” Wallace, husband of Kitty Ethelena “Lena” Johnson (1st daughter of Eliza Jane Moore) homesteaded 529.71 acres in four separate parcels: 165.57 acres in 1909, 40 acres in 1940, 160.61 acres in 1922, and 163.53 acres in 1938.
George T. Wallace, husband of Elsie Hannah Johnson (2nd daughter of Eliza Jane Moore), homesteaded 160 acres of land in one parcel in 1912.
The Homesteads of the children of George Henry Moore
Nathan Washington Moore (1st son of George Henry Moore) homesteaded 480 acres in three separate parcels: 160 acres in 1913, 160 acres in 1921, and 160 acres in 1923.
Charles Woodson Seeley, husband of Virginia Grace Moore (the 1st daughter of George Henry Moore) homesteaded 160 acres on one parcel of land in 1919.
Henry George Moore (2nd son of George Henry Moore) homesteaded 315 acres of land in one parcel in 1919.
Dell Dewey Moore (3rd son of George Henry Moore) homesteaded 640 acres in two separate parcels: 320 acres in 1920 and another 320 acres in 1920.
Note: “The Children of the Moore’s” (The Moore’s, Johnson’s and Wallace’s) were all 1st cousins’.
By the end of the homesteading era, the Moore family had homesteaded about 3,412 acres. Much of that land is no longer owned by the family.
John Wiley Moore’s homestead of 240 acres is still owned by several Moore families.
I believe the homestead of George T. Wallace and Elsie Hannah “Moore” Wallace is still in the Wallace family.
The homestead Nathan Washington Moore is partly in the Moore family.
I do not know the disposition of the homestead of Tean & Lena “Moore” Wallace, nor of the homestead of Dell Washington Johnson.
The homesteads of George Henry Moore, Charles Woodson Seeley, Henry George Moore and Dell Dewy Moore are no longer owned by the family.
The movement from the Woody area is not restricted to the Moore family; it is much the same for the Woody family, the Rutledge family, the Stockton family, the William’s family and many other pioneer families of the greater Woody area.